Filipinos join early 'Simbang Gabi' in New York

By Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

Posted at Dec 09 2014 09:59 AM | Updated as of Dec 09 2014 05:59 PM

NEW YORK – After a two-year ban, the traditional “Simbang Gabi sa Consulado” is back for good.

“It’s the only time that people from all walks of life, and from Connecticut, Philadelphia, and counties that are far away, they can converge in the Philippine Consulate and enjoy the mass,” said Lumen Casteneda, an organizer for the event.

In 2012, after more than two decades of celebrating Misa De Gallo inside the Philippine Consulate, the Archdiocese of New York required the Filipino community to celebrate this Pinoy tradition at cathedrals or nearby Parish churches only.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan cited the Catholic Cannon law that says masses should only be held inside sacred grounds.

But early this year, Dolan lifted the ban after community leader Loida Nicolas Lewis wrote him a letter and asked him to reconsider his “decision that created a negative impression among Filipino-American.”

“We are grateful that we have this privilege to be able to worship in our territory consulate, and that is very, very important for all of us Filipinos, by the way, wherever Jesus is, that’s the Holy place,” said Monsignor Oscar Aquino.

“The Filipino community is very happy that Simbang Gabi has gone back here. As far as they are concerned, the Philippine Consulate, the Philippine Center, is their home away from the Philippines,” said Mario De Leon, Philippine Consul General.

Included in their prayers Sunday night is the safety of Filipinos living on the path of Philippine storm Ruby.

A number of Simbang Gabi goers are natives of Samar.

“I’m from Borongan, Eastern Samar. Thank God sa mga prayers, although we have baha, may mga flooding doon, at saka may mga houses na nasira, but lives were saved because of the evacuation, nakinig naman ang mga tao,” said Liza Galon.

For nine consecutive days, the pre-Christmas masses will be celebrated at the consulate’s Kalayaan Hall at 6:45 p.m. on weekdays and at 3 p.m. on weekends.

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